Session Planning: Using Themes!

Hi there everyone, and welcome to another blog post! 

This week, we’re going to talk themes! Before internship, I never really thought about centering my session around a theme. However, it’s a great option to help plan your session for several reasons which we will break down more later, including…

  1. It can help clients with reality orientation
  2. Centers the session around a specific topic
  3. Helps the therapist narrow down songs and interventions to use 
  4. Educate clients about topics that may be unfamiliar to them

 

  1. It can help clients with reality orientation

Choosing themes to center your session around based off of the current season or holiday is a great way to orient your clients to the here and now (for example, what time of year it is, important events, time of day, etc.). For example, in July, we did summer themed sessions in our older adult groups and at group homes for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. September 23rd was the official first day of fall, so we started doing fall themed session plans that week. During August, we also did a “back to school” theme. There are endless options for themes to incorporate, and the fall/winter is a great time to use themes with all of the holidays, including Halloween, Thanksgiving, winter, etc. 

  1. Centers the session around a specific topic

When starting out as an intern or student, often times, it can be difficult to smoothly transition between different interventions and songs that you use. However, if your session centers around a specific topic, it can be much easier to tie together everything that you are doing in a session. For example, for our “back to school” theme, we first started with a PSE intervention and used the song “School Days”. Afterwards, while you’re getting the next intervention ready, you can tie together the previous intervention by saying something like, “Not only are elementary aged kids also going back to school, but college kids are moving into their dorms and starting back at school too! Something fun that a lot of college students participate in include going to football games and watching the marching band! Let’s get our muscles moving by playing in our own drum circle and making our very own band!” Then, you can smoothly transition into TIMP by doing a drum circle. 

  1. Helps the therapist narrow down songs and interventions to use

So. Many. Songs. To. Choose. From. This is a great problem to have, but can often be quite overwhelming when choosing what songs to use in your sessions! However, if you choose a theme, it immensely narrows down songs you can use that will fit your theme. Google is your best friend when it comes to this. For example, are you doing a fall themed session plan? No problem! Type in “fall-themed songs” into Google, and it will automatically pop up the most popular songs in that category. This also fits into what we talked about above, where it can center your session around a specific topic if you choose songs that fit into a similar category. Some songs that we have used in a summer-themed session plan include: 

  • Summer of ‘69
  • Under the Boardwalk
  • Surfin’ Safari 
  • Hot, Hot, Hot
  • Jump in the Line 
  • Yellow Polka Dot Bikini
  • My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
  • In the Good Old Summertime
  • Under the Sea 
  • Let’s Go Fly A Kite
  • Summertime
  • Blue Skies
  • Any Beach Boys song!
  1. Educate clients about topics that may be unfamiliar to them

Choosing different themes is also a great way to educate clients on topics that they may not have a lot of opportunities to learn about. For example, we are currently doing a camping theme for our adult groups with ID/DD, which also ties into fall. A lot of clients most likely have not had the opportunity to go camping, so this is another educational opportunity for them to learn something new. For this session plan, I have different visuals that correlate to different interventions, and I allow clients to pick a visual out of a drum, or I hold up two options for them to choose from. This also gives them the power of choice. For example, there is a visual of a picnic table, and then that correlates with our “question of the day”, which asks clients what their favorite camping snack food is. I also facilitate upper body PSE by using scarves as kites, and a movement intervention with a parachute as the “tent”. Afterwards, our visuals each have velcro, and they stick onto a larger visual that makes an entire camping scene. I have included a photo of my visual below:

To make this visual, I printed out and laminated a generic forest background. Then, I googled stock images, cut out and laminated the visuals, and then finally put velcro squares on different parts of the background picture and my visuals. If you want to save yourself some time from making your own visuals, there are already lots of ready-made visuals that you can find on Pinterest or teacher websites! 

Some more examples of different themes you can use for teaching topics include world music, surfing, show tunes, movies, love songs and sports! 

I want to hear from you! What are some themes that you use?

Thank you for reading and see you in the next post!

-Juliana Hsu

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Singing

I have been a singer most of my life. I started taking voice lessons in the sixth grade and continued throughout college. Singing has been such a common occurrence of my life. I sing every day, not always well, but there is singing:)

Being a music therapist requires singing, we make many connections with our clients through music, but more specifically singing. Throughout my internship I have learned a lot about how the brain processes music. For example, I find it very interesting that an autistic child may not be able to process spoken directions but sung directions are processed easier in the brain. This shows one aspect of how singing is important within a therapeutic relationship.

Neurologic music therapy has a technique that I find applicable here as well, known as therapeutic singing. Michael Thaut explains what this is in his book, “Rhythm, Music, and the Brain” therapeutic singing is where singing is used to facilitate initiation, development, and articulation in speech and language. This is all accomplished with singing. You can see how important singing can be if so many different reactions are possible and beneficial.

So in conclusion, don’t forget to sing every now and then you never know who is listening.

Beth

Summer Time

As summer in San Diego reaches a peak in July and August, the song “Summertime” is used in many different facilities for a wide range of clients.  “Summertime” is an aria composed by George Gershwin for the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess.  In 1960, Ella Fitzgerald went on tour in Europe, and soulfully delivered the tune.  Ella Fitzgerald performing “Summertime” in Berlin, Germany

A great song for some of the retirement communities is an American Tin Pan Alley song, “In the Good Old Summer Time,” first published in 1902 with music by George Evans and lyrics by Ren Shields.